Cono Sur plans to produce Chile’s first Albariño

Adolfo Hurtado of Chile’s Cono Sur has revealed an ambition to produce the country’s first Albariño, with the winery currently on the hunt for a suitable site in the south of Chile.

Adolfo Hurtado

Adolfo Hurtado, chief winemaker and general manager

Cono Sur’s Bicicleta Pinot Noir and Viognier are now the biggest selling Pinot Noir and Viognier varietal wines in the UK, Adolfo Hurtado, chief winemaker and general manager of Cono Sur told the drinks business. 

Pointing toward its success with these varieties, that are not typically associated with Chile, Hurtado said: “No other brand is selling more of these varieties than us in the UK,” said Hurtado. “These are not varieties that are related to Chile. Pinot Noir you would think France or New Zealand. It is all about innovation and as part of that we always need to ask ourselves what’s next? Why not Albariño? It could be a good variety to develop. No-one is doing it in Chile at the moment. It’s a good variety, so why not develop it for Cono Sur?”

Hurtado is currently looking for a new site to plant an Albariño vineyard, which he said would most likely be in the south of Chile. Realistically, Hurtado doesn’t expect any vines to be planted until the spring of 2017, with the first crop harvested in 2019. The first year in which the wine could conceivably be released would therefore be 2020.

“We are in the really early stages,” said Hurtado. “We need to plant the variety and most probably, if we do it right, it will be part of the Bicicleta range.”

Cono Sur’s Albariño project follows its most recent experimentation with Mediterranean varieties, having planted a vineyard featuring Carignan, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Tempranillo at high altitude in the San Felipe sub-region of Aconcagua in 2013.

“Today this project is a reality,” said Hurtado. “We are already picking grapes from these vineyards and the idea is to produce a blend of these varieties. It seemed like a long time ago we started on this but now it’s a reality. It’s only had two crops and I think it’s still too young to release. The grapes are fantastic but will need to age before release. You only have one opportunity to release a product and the one thing you never want to do is release too early. We prefer to take our time”.

bicicleta-pinot-noir1The winery’s next release will be a traditional method sparkling wine made from Chardonnay grapes grown at a vineyard in western Casablanca 7km from the ocean. Called Centinela, Cono Sur hopes to release the sparkler by the end of 2016.  

“It was bottled in August 2013 so has been three years in bottle. We are pretty proud about the quality and I think it will be a product that will impress. That’s the next release. Sparkling as a category is growing. We are using the success of the Prosecco category. It’s doing very well in the domestic market. People in Chile are drinking more sparkling wines and its booming everywhere”.

Cono Sur, based in Chimbarongo in Chile’s Colchagua Valley, currently produces eight different brands ranging from its top-end Silencio and Ocio, to its entry-level Bicicleta, which includes two varietal wines; a Pinot Noir and a Viognier.

Retailing at around £7.49 a bottle, it is Cono Sur’s highest volume seller in the UK and has achieved significant growth in the past five months, according to Hurtado.

“Sales of our Bicicleta Pinot Noir are up 67% (from January to May 2016) compared to 2015. Our Bicicleta Viognier is up 93% on 2015. We have a really ambitious plan for Cono Sur. It’s a relatively young company that was founded in 1993, so it’s only been 23 years in the market. But we are the third biggest export from Chile. In the last three years Cono Sur has grown an average 15% a year, which is fantastic”.


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